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a brief history of an Ashland landmark

“The Peerless Rooms Building is the single best example of a two-story brick storefront in Ashland.” -National Park ServicR

The Peerless Building is a revered historic treasure for the Ashland community and is currently listed on the National List of Historic Places with the National Park Service. It was built in 1900 by Oscar and Lucinda Ganiard, who built many commercial buildings in Ashland. Not too many people know this, but originally it was a single-story brick building and not the 2-story brick building we know today. It wasn’t until 1904 that the second story was added by the new owner transforming it into lodging for migrant rail workers.

This vernacular “brick front” commercial style building is typical of the once prevalent rooming houses developed to serve the working-class men and women drawn to Ashland in the early years of the 20th century.

It was under the ownership of Sarah Meekly that the building received the name, “Peerless Rooms,” in 1910. A significant element of the building is the sign painted on the side of the building proclaiming “Peerless Rooms” (probably dating from around 1915) with an early “Coca-Cola” advertisement. This is one of Oregon’s best surviving early 20th century murals and is a mecca for those who appreciate advertising history. In 1919, the Peerless building was purchased by Samuel Davies who ran it as a barbershop called “The Mirror Barber” and with his family living upstairs, he also considered it his home and continued to until his death in 1951. .

After the passing of Samuel Davies, his widow, Lora, sold the property to a local who had no intended use for the property, and from here until 1992 it sat virtually vacant and nearly condemned.

In 1992, Crissy Barnett purchased the now derelict building and began a massive 2-year project to restore and renovate the Peerless building to its current glory. In 2021, it was sold to its new owner, Shawn Donnille, who wishes to act as steward and caretaker of one of Ashland’s most curious and intriguing buildings.

To this day, the Peerless building retains all its original brick work, Coca-Cola advertising mural, and shockingly most of the interior still retains most of its original beauty including original doors, hardware, windows, trim, woodwork, staircase, and more. Simply meandering through the halls, one can get a true sense of the architectural and cultural history of this magnificent property.

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